Tag Archives: General Electric M61A1 Vulcan

3 June 1964

Jackie Cochran set a third FAI speed record with a Lockheed F-104G Starfighter, 3 June 1964. (FAI)

3 June 1964: At Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of southern California, Jackie Cochran set a third Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) speed record with the Lockheed F-104G Starfighter, 62-12222. She flew over a 500 kilometer (310.686 miles) closed course, without payload, averaging 1,814.37 kilometers per hour (1,127.397 miles per hour).¹ She broke her own record, set over the same course in 1953 with an Orenda-powered Canadair Sabre Mk.3.²

Jackie Cochran taxiing F-104G Starfighter 62-12222 at Edwards AFB. (Lockheed)
Jackie Cochran taxiing F-104G Starfighter 62-12222 at Edwards AFB. (Lockheed)

Designed by the legendary Kelly Johnson as a Mach 2 interceptor, the Starfighter was used as a fighter bomber by Germany. The F-104G was most-produced version of the Lockheed Starfighter. It had a strengthened fuselage and wings, with hardpoints for carrying bombs, missiles and additional fuel tanks. Built by Lockheed, they were also licensed for production by Canadair, Dornier, Fiat, Fokker, Messerschmitt and SABCA.

The F-104G is a single-seat, single engine fighter bomber, 54 feet 8 inches (16.662 meters) long with a wingspan of just 21 feet, 9 inches (6.629 meters) and overall height of 13 feet, 6 inches (4.115 meters). The empty weight is 14,000 pounds (6,350.3 kilograms) and loaded weight is 20,640 pounds (9,362.2 kilograms).

The F-104G was powered by a General Electric J79-GE-11A engine, a single-spool, axial-flow, afterburning turbojet, which used a 17-stage compressor section and 3-stage turbine. The J79-GE-11A is rated at 10,000 pounds of thrust (44.48 kilonewtons), and 15,800 pounds (70.28 kilonewtons) with afterburner. The engine is 17 feet, 4.0 inches (5.283 meters) long, 3 feet, 2.3 inches (0.973 meters) in diameter, and weighed 3,560 pounds (1,615 kilograms).

The maximum speed is 1,328 miles per hour (2,137.2 kilometers per hour). It has a combat radius of 420 miles (675.9 kilometers) or a ferry range of 1,630 miles (2,623.2 kilometers). The service ceiling is 50,000 feet (15,240 meters).

The Starfighter’s standard armament consists of a 20 mm General Electric M61A1 Vulcan 6-barreled Gatling gun, with 725 rounds of ammunition, and up to four AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air heat seeking missiles could be carried on the wingtips or under wing pylons. In place of missiles two wingtip fuel tanks and another two underwing tanks could be carried.

On NATO alert, the F-104G was armed with a B43 variable-yield nuclear bomb on the fuselage centerline hardpoint. The B43 could be set for explosive force between 170 kilotons and 1 megaton and was designed for high-speed, low-altitude, laydown delivery.

Cochran set three speed records with this F-104 in May and June 1964.³ Under the Military Assistance Program, the U.S. Air Force transferred it to the Republic of China Air Force, where it was assigned number 4322. It crashed 17 July 1981. The pilot, Yan Shau-kuen, ejected.

Lockheed F-104G Starfighter 62-12222 in ROCAF service as 4322.

¹ FAI Record File Number 13037

² FAI Record File Number 8870

³ FAI Record File Numbers 12389, 13037, 13041

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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1 June 1964

Jackie Cochran and Lockheed F-104G Starfighter 62-12222 at Edwards AFB, 1964. (FAI)
Jackie Cochran and Lockheed F-104G Starfighter 62-12222 at Edwards AFB, 1964. (FAI)

1 June 1964: At Edwards Air Force Base, Jackie Cochran flew a Lockheed F-104G Starfighter, serial number 62-12222, over a 100 kilometer (62.137 miles) closed circuit without payload, averaging 2,097.27 kilometers per hour (1,303.18 miles per hour).¹ This new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) speed record broke the one set a year earlier—2,038.70 kilometers per hour (1,266.79 miles per hour)—by Cochran’s friend and competitor, Jacqueline Auriol, who flew a Dassault Mirage IIIR delta-winged reconnaissance fighter at Istres, France.²

Jackie Cochran taxiing Lockheed F-104G Starfighter 62-12222 at Edwards AFB, 1964. (FAI)
Jackie Cochran taxiing Lockheed F-104G Starfighter 62-12222 at Edwards AFB, 1964. (FAI)

Designed by the legendary Kelly Johnson as a Mach 2 interceptor, the Starfighter was used as a fighter bomber by Germany. The F-104G was most-produced version of the Lockheed Starfighter. It had a strengthened fuselage and wings, with hardpoints for carrying bombs, missiles and additional fuel tanks. Built by Lockheed, they were also licensed for production by Canadair, Dornier, Fiat, Fokker, Messerschmitt and SABCA.

The F-104G is a single-seat, single-engine fighter bomber, 54 feet 8 inches (16.662 meters) long with a wingspan of just 21 feet, 9 inches (6.629 meters) and overall height of 13 feet, 6 inches (4.115 meters). The empty weight is 14,000 pounds (6,350.3 kilograms) and loaded weight is 20,640 pounds (9,362.2 kilograms).

The F-104G was powered by a General Electric J79-GE-11A engine, a single-spool, axial-flow, afterburning turbojet, which used a 17-stage compressor section and 3-stage turbine. The J79-GE-11A is rated at 10,000 pounds of thrust (44.48 kilonewtons), and 15,800 pounds (70.28 kilonewtons) with afterburner. The engine is 17 feet, 4.0 inches (5.283 meters) long, 3 feet, 2.3 inches (0.973 meters) in diameter, and weighed 3,560 pounds (1,615 kilograms).

The maximum speed is 1,328 miles per hour (2,137.2 kilometers per hour). It has a combat radius of 420 miles (675.9 kilometers) or a ferry range of 1,630 miles (2,623.2 kilometers). The service ceiling is 50,000 feet (15,240 meters).

The Starfighter’s standard armament consists of a 20 mm General Electric M61A1 Vulcan 6-barreled Gatling gun, with 725 rounds of ammunition, and up to four AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air heat seeking missiles could be carried on the wingtips or under wing pylons. In place of missiles two wingtip fuel tanks and another two underwing tanks could be carried.

On NATO alert, the F-104G was armed with a B43 variable-yield nuclear bomb on the fuselage centerline hardpoint. The B43 could be set for explosive force between 170 kilotons and 1 megaton and was designed for high-speed, low-altitude, laydown delivery.

Jackie Cochran set three speed records with this F-104 in May and June 1964.³ Under the Military Assistance Program, the U.S. Air Force transferred it to the Republic of China Air Force, where it was assigned number 4322. It crashed 17 July 1981. The pilot, Yan Shau-kuen, ejected.

The record-setting Lockheed F-104G Starfighter, USAF serial number 62-12222, in service with the Republic of China Air Force as 4322.
The record-setting Lockheed F-104G Starfighter, USAF serial number 62-12222, in service with the Republic of China Air Force as 4322.

¹ FAI Record File Number 12389

² FAI Record File Number 12392

³ FAI Record File Numbers 12389, 13037, 13041

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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22 May 1991

22 May 1991: After nearly 30 years in service with West Germany, the F-104 Starfighter made its last flight before retirement. The Luftwaffe was the largest single operator of the Lockheed F-104 with nearly 35% of the total worldwide production in West German service. 915 F-104F two-place trainers and F-104G fighter-bombers were built, with most going to the Luftwaffe, but 151 were assigned to the West German Navy.

Designed by the legendary Kelly Johnson as a Mach 2 interceptor, the Starfighter was used as a fighter bomber by Germany. The F-104G was most-produced version of the Lockheed Starfighter. It had a strengthened fuselage and wings, with hardpoints for carrying bombs, missiles and additional fuel tanks. Built by Lockheed, they were also licensed for production by Canadair, Dornier, Fiat, Fokker, Messerschmitt and SABCA.

The F-104G is a single-seat, single engine fighter bomber, 54 feet 8 inches (16.662 meters) long with a wingspan of just 21 feet, 9 inches (6.629 meters) and overall height of 13 feet, 6 inches (4.115 meters). The empty weight is 14,000 pounds (6,350.3 kilograms) and loaded weight is 20,640 pounds (9,362.2 kilograms).

The F-104G was powered by a General Electric J79-GE-11A engine, a single-spool, axial-flow, afterburning turbojet, which used a 17-stage compressor section and 3-stage turbine. The J79-GE-11A is rated at 10,000 pounds of thrust (44.48 kilonewtons), and 15,800 pounds (70.28 kilonewtons) with afterburner. The engine is 17 feet, 4.0 inches (5.283 meters) long, 3 feet, 2.3 inches (0.973 meters) in diameter, and weighed 3,560 pounds (1,615 kilograms).

The maximum speed is 1,328 miles per hour (2,137.2 kilometers per hour). It has a combat radius of 420 miles (675.9 kilometers) or a ferry range of 1,630 miles (2,623.2 kilometers). The service ceiling is 50,000 feet (15,240 meters).

The Starfighter’s standard armament consists of a 20 mm General Electric M61A1 Vulcan 6-barreled Gatling gun, with 725 rounds of ammunition, and up to four AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air heat seeking missiles could be carried on the wingtips or under wing pylons. In place of missiles two wingtip fuel tanks and another two underwing tanks could be carried.

General Electric M61A1 20 mm rotary cannon in the weapons bay of a Lockheed F-104G Starfighter. (Michael Wolf/Wikipedia)
General Electric M61A1 20 mm rotary cannon in the weapons bay of a Messerschmitt-built F-104G Starfighter. (Michael Wolf/Wikipedia)

On NATO alert, the F-104G was armed with a B43 variable-yield nuclear bomb on the fuselage centerline hardpoint. The B43 could be set for explosive force between 170 kilotons and 1 megaton and was designed for high-speed, low-altitude, laydown delivery.

German Air Force F-104G Starfighter equipped with rocket booster for Zero Length Launch. A B43 nuclear bomb is on the centerline hardpoint. (MoRsE via Wikipedia)
German Air Force F-104G Starfighter DB+127 at the Luftwaffenmuseum der Bundeswehr, Berlin Gatow. The fighter bomber equipped with four external fuel tanks and a ZELL-Verfaren rocket booster for Zero-Length Launch. A B43 nuclear bomb is on the centerline hardpoint. (MoRsE via Wikipedia)

The Starfighter had an undesirable reputation for high accident rates. 270 German F-104s were lost in accidents, resulting in the deaths of at least 110 pilots. In reality, this was not unusual, and can be attributed the the nature of the mission: high-speed, low-altitude flight, in the poor weather conditions of Europe. The German press, however, gave it the name Witwenmacher (“Widowmaker”).

The last Luftwaffe F-104 to fly was 26+40 from Ingolstadt Manching Airport, 22 May 1991.

Two F-104G Starfighters in service with the Luftwaffe. The airplane closest to the camera, marked 26+41, was built by Messerschmitt with final assembly by MBB-Manching in February 1971. (© Peter Doll)
Two F-104G Starfighters in service with the Luftwaffe. The airplane closest to the camera, marked 26+41, was built by Messerschmitt with final assembly by MBB-Manching in February 1971. It is powered bya MAN Turbo J79-MTU-J1K engine rated at 15,950 pounds of thrust. (© Peter Doll)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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26 March 1967

Republic F-105D-6-RE Thunderchief 59-1772, parked in a revetment. Colonel Scott flew this airplane 26 March 1967 when he shot down a MiG-17. (U.S. Air Force)
Republic F-105D-6-RE Thunderchief 59-1772, parked in a revetment. Colonel Scott flew this airplane 26 March 1967 when he shot down a MiG 17. (U.S. Air Force)

26 March 1967: Colonel Robert Ray Scott, United States Air Force, commanding the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, was leading 20 Republic F-105 Thunderchief fighter bombers from Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, on an attack against an enemy military barracks near Hanoi, North Vietnam. Colonel Scott’s airplane was Republic F-105D-6-RE, serial number 59-1772, and his call sign was “Leech 01.” As he came off the target, he shot down an enemy Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG 17 fighter with the 20 mm M61A1 Vulcan cannon of his fighter bomber.

Colonel Robert R. Scott, U.S. Air Force
Colonel Robert R. Scott, U.S. Air Force

The third MiG-17 destroyed during the month was credited to the 355th TFW, Colonel Scott, who was leading an F-105 flight on a strike mission not far from Hoa Lac airfield on 26 March. His account follows:

“I had acquired the target and executed a dive-bomb run, while heading approximately 250°, altitude approximately 4,000 feet, I observed a MiG taking off from Hoa Loc airfield. I began a left turn to approximately 150° to follow the MiG for possible engagement. At this time I observed three more MiG-17s orbiting the airfield at approximately 3,000 feet, in single ship trail with 3,000 to 5,000 feet spacing. MiGs were silver with red star. I then concentrated my attention on the nearest MiG-17 and pressed the attack. As I closed in on the MiG it began turning to the right. I followed the MiG, turning inside, and began firing. I observed ordnance impacting on the left wing and pieces of material tearing off. At this time the MiG began a hard left-descending turn. I began to overshoot and pulled off high and to the right. The last time I saw the MiG it was extremely low, approximately 500 feet, and rolling nose down.”

Aces and Aerial Victories: The United States Air Force in Southeast Asia 1965–1973, by R. Frank Futrell, William H. Greenhalgh, Carl Grubb, Gerard E. Hasselwander, Robert F. Jakob and Charles A. Ravenstein, Office of Air Force History, Headquarters USAF, 1976, Chapter II at Page 45.

This former Egyptian Air Force Mikoyan-Gurevivch MiG-17F in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force is painted in the colors of the Vietnam Peoples' Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)
This former Egyptian Air Force Mikoyan-Gurevivch MiG 17F in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force is painted in the colors of the Vietnam Peoples’ Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)

The pilot of the MiG 17, Second Lieutenant Vũ Huy Lượng, 923rd Fighter Regiment, Vietnam Peoples’ Air Force, was killed.

As a Northrop P-61 Black Widow pilot with the 426th Night Fighter Squadron during World War II, Colonel Scott had shot down two enemy airplanes. By destroying the MiG-17, he became only the second U.S. Air Force pilot, after Colonel Robin Olds, to achieve aerial victories during World War II and the Vietnam War.

Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-17F in Vietnam Peoples' Air Force markings at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force).
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG 17F in Vietnam Peoples’ Air Force markings at NMUSAF, Wright-Patterson AFB. (U.S. Air Force).

Robert Ray Scott was born at Des Moines, Iowa, 1 November 1920. He was the first of two children of Ray Scott, a railroad worker, and Elva M. Scott. He graduated from North High School in Des Moines, January 1939. He studied aeronautical engineering at the University of Iowa for two years before he enlisted as an Aviation Cadet in the U.S. Army Air Corps, 15 August 1941. Scott was 5 feet, 7 inches (1.70 meters) tall and weighed 144 pounds (65.3 kilograms). He was trained as a pilot and and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, 16 March 1942. He was assigned as an instructor pilot in California, and was promoted to 1st Lieutenant 15 December 1942.

Scott was transferred to the 426th Night Fighter Squadron, 14th Air Force, flying the Northrop P-61 Black Widow in India and China. He was promoted to captain, 3 May 1944, and to major, 16 August 1945. Major Scott was credited with shooting down two enemy aircraft. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal.

Captain Robert Ray Scott (back row, second from left) with the 426th Night Fighter Squadron, 1944. The airplane is a Northrop P-61 Black Widow. (U.S. Air Force)

Following World War II, Major Scott returned to the University of Iowa to complete his bachelor’s degree. He also earned two master’s degrees.

In 1952 he graduated from the Air Force test pilot school at Edwards Air Force Base, then served as a project pilot on the North American F-86D all-weather interceptor. Later he was a project officer at Edwards AFB on the Republic F-105 Thunderchief Mach 2 fighter-bomber.

Scott flew the North American Aviation F-86F Sabre during the Korean War. From January to July 1953, he flew 117 combat missions. From 1953 to 1956, Lieutenant Colonel Scott commanded the 405th Fighter Bomber Wing, Tactical Air Command, at Langley Air Force base, Virginia.

Lieutenant Richard Hill and Lieutenant Colonel Robert R. Scott (in cockpit) after their record-breaking transcontinental flight. (Unattributed)

On 9 October 1955, Scott set a transcontinental speed record by flying a Republic F-84F Thunderstreak fighter bomber from Los Angeles International Airport, California, to Floyd Bennett Field, New York, in 3 hours, 46 minutes, 33.6 seconds. Later he was a project officer at Edwards AFB on the Republic F-105 Thunderchief Mach 2 fighter-bomber.

Scott was promoted the rank of Colonel in 1960.

During the Vietnam War, Colonel Scott commanded the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, flying 134 combat missions in the Republic F-105 Thunderchief.

Colonel Scott’s final commanding was the 832nd Air Division, 12th Air Force, at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico. He retired 1 September 1970 after 29 years of military service.

Colonel Robert Ray Scott flew 305 combat missions in three wars. During his Air Force career, Colonel Scott was awarded four Silver Star medals, three Legion of Merit medals, six Distinguished Flying Crosses and 16 Air Medals. He died at Tehachapi, California, 3 October 2006 at the age of 86 years. He is buried at the Arlington National Cemetery.

Republic F-105D 59-1772 is credited with another air-to-air victory. Just over a month after Colonel Scott’s Mig-17 shoot-down, on 28 April 1967 Major Harry E. Higgins, 357th Tactical Fighter Squadron, shot down another MiG-17 with the fighter bomber’s cannon, for which Major Higgins was awarded the Silver Star.

The Thunderchief, though, met its own end when it was shot down by 37 mm anti-aircraft gunfire 10 miles (16 kilometers) west of Ko Hinh, Laos, 27 January 1970. The pilot was rescued.

Colonel Robert R. Scott, commander, 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, checks the bombs loaded on a multiple ejector rack while preflighting his Republic F-105 Thunderchief. (U.S. Air Force)
Colonel Robert R. Scott, commander, 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, checks the bombs loaded on a multiple ejector rack while preflighting his Republic F-105 Thunderchief. (U.S. Air Force)

Republic Aviation Corporation built 833 F-105 Thunderchief fighter bombers at its Farmingdale, New York factory. 610 of those were single-seat F-105Ds. The F-105D Thunderchief is 64 feet, 3 inches (19.583 meters) long with a wingspan of 34 feet, 11 inches (10.643 meters) and overall height of 19 feet, 8 inches (5.994 meters). It has an empty weight of 27,500 pounds (12,473.79 kilograms) and a maximum takeoff weight of 52,546 pounds (23,834.47 kilograms).

The Thunderchief  was powered by one Pratt & Whitney J75-P-19W engine. The J75 is a two-spool axial-flow afterburning turbojet with water injection. It has a 15-stage compressor section (8 low- and and 7 high-pressure stages) and 3-stage turbine section (1 high- and 2 low-pressure stages.) The J75-P-19W is rated at 17,200 pounds of thrust (76.51 kilonewtons), and 26,500 pounds (117.88 kilonewtons) with afterburner. It is 20 feet (6.1 meters) long, 3 feet, 7.0 inches (1.092 meters) in diameter, and weighs 5,960 pounds (2,703 kilograms).

The maximum speed of the F-105D is 836 miles per hour (1,345 kilometers per hour) at Sea level and 1,420 miles per hour (2,285 kilometers per hour) at 38,000 feet (11,582 meters). The combat ceiling is 48,500 feet (14,783 meters) and combat range is 778 miles (1,252 kilometers).

The F-105D is armed with one 20 mm M61A1 Vulcan rotary cannon and 1,028 rounds of ammunition. It has an internal bomb bay and can carry bombs, missiles or fuel tanks on under wing and centerline hardpoints. The maximum bomb load consisted of 16 750-pound (340 kilogram) bombs.

The F-105 Thunderchief was a supersonic tactical fighter bomber rather than an air superiority fighter. Still, during the Vietnam War, F-105s shot down 27 enemy MiG fighters. 24 of those were shot down with the Thunderchief’s Vulcan cannon.

Of the 833 F-105s, 395 were lost during the Vietnam War. 334 were shot down, mostly by antiaircraft guns or missiles, and 17 by enemy fighters. Another 61 were lost due to accidents. The 40% combat loss is indicative of the extreme danger of the missions these airplanes were engaged in.

This Republic F-105D-10-RE Thunderchief, 60-0504, served with the 355th TFW at Takhli AB, Thailand. It shot down two enemy fighters. Similar the the F-105D flown by Colonel Scott, 26 March 1967, it is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)
This Republic F-105D-10-RE Thunderchief, 60-0504, served with the 355th TFW at Takhli AB, Thailand. It shot down two enemy fighters. Similar the the F-105D flown by Colonel Scott, 26 March 1967, it is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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6 March 1961

Boeing B-52H-135-BW Stratofortress 60-0006. (United States Air Force)

6 March 1961: The B-52H is the final version of the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress intercontinental strategic bomber. There are discrepancies as to the date of its first flight, with sources varying by as much as eight months. One very reliable source writes that the flight took place on 20 July 1960. A U.S. Air Force publication says that it was in March 1961, and another source (Boeing) says that it was 6 March 1961. (This third date is convenient, so, for no other reason, I’ve posted this article using that date.)

The U.S. Air Force contracted 62 B-52H Stratofortresses, serial numbers 60-0001 through 60-0062, on 6 May 1960. A second group of 40, serials 61-0001 through 61-0040, were ordered later. All were built at the Boeing Wichita plant.

A fourth source identifies the aircraft in the photograph above, Boeing B-52H-135-BW Stratofortress 60-0006, (Boeing serial number 464-371) as the first B-52H to fly. The existence of a nice aerial portrait suggests that this may be correct.

The B-52H, like the B-52G, is a re-engineered aircraft, structurally different from the XB-52, YB-52, and B-52A–B-52F Stratofortress variants. It is lighter, carries more internal fuel, giving it a longer unrefueled range, and is strengthened for low-altitude flight. The shorter vertical fin is intended to prevent the losses caused by the original tall fin in turbulent air. The B-52H is equipped with quieter, more efficient turbofan engines.

A Boeing B-52H Stratofortress carries four Douglas Skybolt ALBMs. (U.S. Air Force)
A Boeing B-52H Stratofortress carries four Douglas GAM-87 Skybolt ALBMs. (U.S. Air Force)

The B-52H was developed to carry four Douglas GAM-87 Skybolt air-launched ballistic missiles on pylons mounted under the wings, inboard of the engines. The Skybolt was armed with a 1-megaton W-59 thermonuclear warhead. The program was cancelled, however, and the North American Aviation AGM-28 Hound Dog air-launched cruise missile was used instead. (Interestingly, the Hound Dog’s Pratt & Whitney J52-P-3 turbojet engine could be used to supplement the B-52’s takeoff thrust, and then refueled from the bomber’s tanks before being air-launched.)

Boeing B-52G Stratofortress aremd with two North American Aviation AGM-28 Hound Dog ACLMs. (U.S. Air Force)
Boeing B-52G-105-BW Stratofortress 58-0216 armed with two North American Aviation AGM-28 Hound Dog ALCMs. (U.S. Air Force)

The B-52H is a sub-sonic, swept wing, long-range strategic bomber. It was originally operated by a crew of six: two pilots, a navigator and a radar navigator, an electronic warfare officer, and a gunner. (The gunner was eliminated after 1991). The airplane is 159 feet, 4 inches (48.565 meters) long, with a wing span of 185 feet (56.388 meters). It is 40 feet, 8 inches (12.395 meters) high to the top of the vertical fin. The B-52H uses the vertical fin developed for the B-52G, which is 22 feet, 11 inches (6.985 meters) tall. This is 7 feet, 8 inches (2.337 meters) shorter than the fin on the XB-52–B-52F aircraft, but the fin’s chord is longer. The bomber has an empty weight of 172,740 pounds (78,354 kilograms) and its Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) is 488,000 pounds (221,353 kilograms).

The most significant difference between the B-52H and the earlier Stratofortresses is the replacement of the eight Pratt & Whitney J57-series turbojet engines with eight Pratt & Whitney Turbo Wasp JT3D-2 (TF33-P-3) turbofans, which are significantly more efficient. They are quieter and don’t emit the dark smoke trails of the turbojets. The TF-33 is a two-spool axial-flow turbofan engine with 2 fan stages, a 14-stage compressor section (7-stage intermediate pressure, 7-stage high-pressure) and and a 4-stage turbine (1-stage high-pressure, 3-stage low-pressure). Each engine produces a maximum of 17,000 pounds of thrust (75.620 kilonewtons). The TF33-P-3 is 11 feet, 10 inches (3.607 meters) long, 4 feet, 5.0 inches (1.346 meters) in diameter and weighs 3,900 pounds (1,769 kilograms).

The B-52H has a cruise speed of 525 miles per hour (845 kilometers per hour). It has a maximum speed of 632 miles per hour (1,017 kilometers per hour) at 23,800 feet (7,254 meters)—0.908 Mach. The service ceiling is 47,700 feet (14,539 meters). The unrefueled range is 8,000 miles (12,875 kilometers). With inflight refueling, its range is limited only by the endurance of its crew.

The B-52H was armed with a 20 mm M61 Vulcan 6-barreled cannon in place of the four .50-caliber machine guns of the earlier variants.
The B-52H was armed with a 20 mm M61A1 Vulcan 6-barreled rotary cannon in place of the four .50-caliber machine guns of the earlier variants. The gun was removed after 1991.

The B-52H was armed with a 20mm M61A1 Vulcan six-barreled rotary cannon in a remotely-operated tail turret. The gun had a rate of fire of 4,000 rounds per minute, and had a magazine capacity of 1,242 rounds. After 1991, the gun and its radar system were removed from the bomber fleet. The flight crew was reduced to five.

The B-52H can carry a wide variety of conventional free-fall or guided bombs, land-attack or anti-ship cruise missiles, and thermonuclear bombs or cruise missiles. These can be carried both in the internal bomb bay or on underwing pylons. The bomb load is approximately 70,000 pounds (31,751 kilograms).

A Boeing B-52H Stratofortress dropping forty-five M117 750-pound (340 kilogram) general purpose bombs. (Senior Airman Carlin Leslie, U.S. Air Force)

The first of 102 B-52H Stratofortresses entered service on 9 May 1961. The last one, 61-0040, was rolled out 26 October 1962. Beginning in 2009, eighteen B-52H bombers were placed in climate-controlled long term storage at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma. As of December 2015, fifty-eight of the bombers remained in the active fleet of the United States Air Force and eighteen are assigned to the Air Force Reserve. In 2014, the entire fleet began a major avionics upgrade. The B-52H is expected to remain in service until 2040.

An ordnance crew loads a rotary launcher with 8 cruise missiles into teh bomb bay of a B-52H Stratofortress. (Senior Airman Amber Ashcraft/U.S. Air Force)
An ordnance crew loads a rotary launcher with 8 cruise missiles into the bomb bay of a B-52H Stratofortress. (Senior Airman Amber Ashcraft/U.S. Air Force)

60-0006, the first B-52H to fly, crashed while making a ground-controlled (GCA) approach to Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio, at 2:07 a.m., 30 May 1974. The bomber’s rudder and elevators failed. Although 60-0006 was destroyed, all seven airmen on board, Captains Charles Brown, Robert E. Smith, William G. Heckathorn, Paul C. Hoffman, 1st Lieutenants John D. Weaver, James R. Villines, and 2nd Lieutenant Robert E. Pace, survived the accident without serious injuries.

Wreck of Boeing B-52H-135-NW Stratofortress 60-0006 at Wright-Patterson AFB, 30 May 1974. (Dayton Daily News Archive)
Wreck of Boeing B-52H-135-BW Stratofortress 60-0006 at Wright-Patterson AFB, 30 May 1974. Two AGM-28 Hound Dog ACLMs are lying in the background. (Dayton Daily News Archive)
A Boeing B-52H Stratofortress during a deterrent patrol near the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea, 2016. The bomber is carrying a load of Mk.84 2,000-pound JDAM “smart” bombs. (Master Sgt. Lance Cheung, U.S. Air Force)
Boeing B-52H-165-BW Stratofortress 61-0007 takes off at Tinker Air Force Base on a functional test flight, 30 August 2016. The airplane, named “Ghost Rider,” was overhauled after being stored for eight years at The Boneyard, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. 61-0007 is the very first B-52 to have been “regenerated.” (Kelly White/U.S. Air Force)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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